Black Hat targets the C-level

In an interview with CSO, Black Hat General Manager Trey Ford explains how the annual summer pilgrimage to Las Vegas is no longer for hackers alone

True story: A couple years ago, CSO Publisher Bob Bragdon attended Black Hat USA in Las Vegas. Accustomed to dealing with security practitioners at the executive level, he felt like a fish out of water in hallways teeming with torn jeans, leather and a variety of hair styles typically frowned upon in the boardroom.

"I was walking around asking myself, what is this?" Bragdon told me after that event.

He apparently wasn't the first suit to feel that way, as the event has remained largely a hacker fest. But even the hacking scene has grown more corporate in the past decade, and new Black Hat General Manager Trey Ford wants his events to bridge the gap between these camps. In an interview with CSO, Ford noted that an entire day -- Tuesday, July 24 -- will be dedicated to the executive level.

"We've seen an interesting evolution," Ford said. The crowd will always be an interesting mix of researchers, government-based IT practitioners and federal agents, he said. But the scene is getting a lot more corporate. "Security continues to be a growing market, and more and more executives are coming to our events, so it's important to get in front of them," he said.

The start of the executive briefings actually pre-dates Ford, who only recently took over as general manager. This will be the third year. But Ford said he's committed to adding to the program as time goes on. One of the main goals is to present information in a language executives can more easily digest.

"Researchers are tremendous at what they do, but they are not always polished in their delivery," Ford said. "The talks can get very technical. We've been working on ways to give C-level professionals more easily digestible material."

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